Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 17, 2017

Earth Concerns News

Plan B: Mobilizing To Save Civilization 4.0: Summary of Chapter 9 by Sister Betsy Van Deusen, CSJ

Throughout this year the Home/Land Committee has been summarizing an important but difficult book, entitled Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. I say difficult because it deals with complex issues about which I know I need not only to be informed but also to work on. The authors assert the following four goals: stabilizing climate, stabilizing population, eradicating poverty and restoring Earth’s ecosystems (by decreasing carbon-dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2020 via renewable resources). This plan is an alternative to business as usual.

Chapter nine, entitled, Feeding Eight Billion Well, describes the agribusiness world in which we live and the implications for hungry people and us. Many shifts have occurred in the last few years. One significant shift is that China has moved from being dependent on food aid to the world’s third largest food-aid donor. This change has happened primarily through greater crop yield by doubling and tripling crops per field and by increasing irrigation efficiency and water stewardship at the lowest level, that is in the local communities. Despite the change in China, the food crisis has worsened in sub-Sahara Africa and parts of India as grain prices continue to rise, leaving more children hungry. World-grain production has fallen short of consumption in seven of the last eight years which means that the previous food surpluses are no longer available, and no more surpluses are being created. This is primarily due to the fact that five-billion persons each year are now choosing to eat “higher on the food chain” because of affluence, and most of these people live in China.

Can enough food be produced to feed the world? The authors assert in the affirmative, but the biggest user of water, agriculture, needs to become more efficient in water use both in direct food production and in raising livestock and crops to feed the animals. “Since it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce one ton of grain, it is not surprising that 70 percent of the world’s water use is devoted to irrigation.” (179). This water usage is a balancing act and one that is critical to us and to Earth.
As we enter into this New Year, let us give some thought to what we choose to eat and what actually goes into getting that food to our table. When I was a child, we used to joke that children who grew up in cities thought milk came from the store. Perhaps we can reflect prayerfully on what difference our choices make in the production of grain, in the availability of clean drinking water and in the carbon dioxide emitted in transporting food to our table.
In the beginning of this article, I mentioned that this information is “hard stuff.” We simply need to view ourselves as part of the world economy and believe that we can change the world one bite and one sip at a time! I commit that prayerful “food-chain lowering” to you. Will you join me?